In my last blog, I wrote about how I got to the point where I was ready to start dating. Now I’m going to tell you about a few of the things that have been helpful to me as a survivor new to dating. I think it’s important to reiterate part of that last sentence: “the things that have been helpful to me…”
Dating has been a very personal experience for me, as I’m sure it is for each and every person. I’ve talked to friends and acquaintances who each have their own unique perspective, and it has been immensely reassuring to find that many of my experiences aren’t just things that survivors go through, they’re things that everyone has to navigate when it comes to dating.
I must be able to say “no” before I can say “yes”.
As I entered the dating world I had to build on what I already knew about boundaries. When I started, I thought every person who showed interest in me was the only person who would ever be interested in me and I’d let them break my boundaries alot. Now I approach dating with the idea that if someone isn’t willing to respect my boundaries, then they aren’t the right person for me. The person who’s right for me will know that good boundaries help me build trust.
Rejection: It’s not me, it’s you.
It hurts to be rejected, or to be left hanging by someone who may not want to pursue further dates, but their decision originates with them and it’s all about them, not me. Being rejected doesn’t mean I’m not interesting, attractive, likeable and lovable, it just means that I’m not the right person for them. In fact, every rejection represents one less person I have to meet before I find the right person for me.
If, when and how to disclose my abuse history.
This has been one of the most difficult things for me to handle. If someone asks me detailed questions about my childhood or my family on our first few dates, I usually just say that I’m one of many people who have experienced childhood abuse, and that I’m in a good place in my life right now, because it’s true. If they’re curious about details, I politely tell them that it would make us both kinda sad, and I’d rather enjoy my time with them. The abuse I suffered was not my fault and I am not ashamed of being a survivor, but I do choose my words carefully and open that door a little bit at a time in order to protect myself emotionally.
This is one of my favorite tools when it comes to going out with someone, or deciding if I’m ready to have sex with someone. It also represents the necessary criteria I need to have a healthy relationship.
Consent: Am I being clear with myself and with the person I’m dating when I say yes or no to something?
Equality: Am I on equal ground with this person? Am I de-selfing? Do I feel I’m being heard and recognized as a whole person?
Respect: Am I able to maintain my boundaries? Am I respecting my own limits? Is the person I’m trying to date respectful of my boundaries and my sense of self?
Trust: Do I trust the person I’m with? If I don’t, I feel it in my gut. I can trust my feelings and communicate my needs and limits with regard to trust.
Safety: Do I feel safe with the person I’m dating? Are there any red flags such as lack of boundaries, aggressive behavior, pressure to do something I don’t want to do, disregard for my needs and feelings, or other triggers?
These are just a few of the things I’ve learned so far. I use them to help me make good choices and maintain good self-esteem while navigating the world of dating. I’ve made lots of mistakes, but I’ve also had a lot of fun as I learn more about myself in relation to others.